The soft punishment given to a mother who murdered her eight-week-old daughter is a sign that the child murder law should be repealed across Australia, a child abuse attorney says.
Tina Terlato avoided jail for murdering her daughter Amanda at their suburban Melbourne home on Anzac Day 2012.
She also cruelly attacked Amanda’s twin sister Alicia, who will be disabled for life.
The situation of the Terlato twins was secret until an order of suppression was lifted in late 2019, finally allowing their family to express their anger at the punishment Tina received.
The twins ‘aunt, Michelle Terlato, has called for the abolition of the child murder law in Victoria, and with states in Western Australia that have done so in recent years, this is a push that has now received support from the victims’ attorneys.
When Alicia Terlato and her twin sister Amanda (pictured) were only eight weeks old when they were violently attacked by their mother. Amanda’s injuries were fatal, while Alicia will be disabled for life. Despite this, their mother Tina avoided any prison sentence – something the twins’ family believes should change
Tina Terlato (pictured) was charged with murder, but instead pleaded guilty to a count of infanticide and was sentenced to a 12-month community correction. Her former sister-in-law Michelle Terlato has called on the Victorian government to change the law
The infanticide, introduced in England in the 1920s, was intended to ensure that women who killed their children would not be charged with murder and therefore sentenced to death.
Over the years, it was subsequently introduced in Victoria, New South Wales, Tasmania and Western Australia.
After an evaluation by the Law Review Commission, Western Australia withdrew it in 2008.
While the age limit for a child victim in Victoria is two years, elsewhere it is 12 months.
Infanticide is an applicable indictment of mothers who have a ‘disturbed’ mind and were used as such in the case of Tina Terlato, due to claims of post-natal depression.
Although she understands the intentions of such a law, her former sister-in-law Michelle Terlato believes that these overtime hours have become ‘archaic’ and devalue the lives of young children.
Joe Tucci, CEO of the Australian Childhood Foundation, agrees.
Mr. Tucci has lobbied hard for the Victorian Law Reform Commission to withdraw the law in 2004 and believes that now is the time to re-examine infanticide.
“The job of the law is to put children first when trying to protect them and gain justice,” he said.
“The fact that there is a law on infanticide is, in my opinion, an outdated law, in the sense of the support we now have available to people.
“The most important essential tenant of the law is to protect the most vulnerable, and in these situations the babies must be the most vulnerable.
Alicia’s father Paul (pictured) was told that his surviving daughter would probably be in a wheelchair for life, but she “has defied the odds.” Mr. Terlato also praised his son Luke (left), who he says is “ older than his years ” and helped his sister’s development tremendously
Joe Tucci, CEO of the Australian Childhood Foundation, says it’s “definitely” time for a review of the child murder law. The last assessment was conducted in 2004 in Victoria, during which time Western Australia repealed the law
INFANTICIDE IN AUSTRALIA:
– Infanticide was introduced in the UK in the 1920s and followed in Australia.
– It ensures that mothers who murder their children are not convicted of murder if it turns out that they have a deranged mind.
– Those mental health problems must stem from childbirth or a childbirth disorder.
– As of 2020, the law will remain in effect only in Victoria, New South Wales and Tasmania.
– It has a maximum sentence of five years in prison – as opposed to 25 years for murder – but no woman found guilty of infanticide has ever been imprisoned.
– Western Australia repealed the law in 2008, while the Victoria Law Reform Commission assessed the law in 2004, but decided to enforce it.
“I think there should be a higher sentence for children who are most vulnerable … the younger the child, the heavier the sentence, not the other way around.”
But it’s not just Tina Terlato who has avoided jail for killing a child in recent years.
23-year-old Sofina Nikat murdered 14-month-old baby girl Sanaya in her home and then took it to nearby Darebin Creek.
While admitting to the police that she thought her daughter was possessed, Nikat pleaded not guilty to murder.
Psychiatrists agreed that Nikat was not mentally fit, and like Tina Terlato, she received a 12-month community correction sentence.
The deaths of Amanda Terlato and Sanaya Nikat both came in the years since a revision of the child murder law was carried out in Victoria.
In 2004, the Victorian Law Reform Commission was asked to determine whether to repeal or amend the child murder law, but eventually advised the then Labor government against any changes.
The VLRC determined that a toddler’s death due to his mother is “a separate kind of human tragedy.”
Since then, Western Australia has repealed the law, one of the main reasons for the decision that a magistrate or judge should in any case consider the mental health of a suspect in the conviction.
In a similar investigation in New South Wales in 1997, the Review Committee was advised to withdraw the law, but it was upheld by the government.
Alicia Terlato now smiles, walks and talks just like any other girl her age, eight years after a horror attack at the hands of her mother Tina. The vicious attack left Alicia with serious injuries, which will leave her disabled for life and going to hospital almost weekly
When asked if it was time for Victoria to take another look at the law, current state attorney general Jill Hennessy declined to comment.
Tina Terlato (pictured with Essendon Bombers stars Orazio Fantasia and David Zaharakis) has been allowed to lead a normal life since the accident and still has access to her children
When asked if it was time for Victoria to look at the law again, current state attorney general Jill Hennessy declined to comment.
Michelle Terlato said that something needs to be done to stop similar “pathetic” phrases, such as those handed down to Tina Terlato.
“We as a family believe that the lives of babies and children don’t count very much,” she said.
“I feel justified saying this because I am a woman – I feel it is difficult for men to say this because they are simply shot because they are a man – but I think infanticide is a very sexist and archaic law.
“It was brought in to protect women with babies who were unmarried and shunned by society hundreds of years ago, or who had no choice but to kill their newborn.
“There is certainly no excuse nowadays for feeling that you are in that position, not for having the support and care to take care of a newborn.
“We’ve been fighting really hard for the Victorian government to look at the infanticide law and possibly delete the law, we really don’t think it’s appropriate anymore.
“Women scream for equality, but when it comes to things like this, they don’t want it … well, you can’t have it either way.”
THE TRAGIC ABUSE OF AMANDA AND ALICIA TERLATO BY THEIR MOTHER:
– On the evening of April 25, 2012, Tina Terlato brutally attacked her eight-week-old twin daughters Amanda and Alicia at their Melbourne home.
– Then she carefully put them back in their beds.
– Only a few hours later, their father Paul Terlato went to see if the alarm went off.
Alicia Terlato with her father Paul and older brother Luke
– They were both rushed to the hospital, but Amanda died during the surgery, while Alicia still has severe disabilities, including cerebral palsy due to the attack.
– The police arrested Tina Terlato and charged her with her murder, but she was later demoted to infanticide. She pleaded guilty and received a community correction order, which meant she didn’t have to spend time in prison.
– When sentenced, Victorian Supreme Court judge Bernard Bongiorno cited Tina’s mental health problems as a determining factor.
– At the time of the attack, doctors were concerned that Alicia would never walk again.
– Alicia has taken incredible steps in her recovery today and is now about to run for the first time. She attends a regular school and enjoys going to football matches with her father and older brother, Luke.
– Incredibly, a court ordered that Tina continue to have access to her children even though they live with their father full time.
There was a fear that Alicia would never be able to walk, but she is currently in the second grade of a regular school in Melbourne and is getting closer to running every day
– Although her father has high hopes that improvements in recent years will continue, he is willing to be by her side anyway.
– “Just like any child you have, I want her to grow up happily and healthily, get married and have children, be independent and work,” said Paul.
– “But if it doesn’t happen like that, I’m not worried. She can stay with me for the rest of her life. I am her father and nothing changes. ‘